Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another Great Step

Today, after more than 25 years, 2 Sikh gentlemen were given the privilege of completing basic training WITHOUT eliminating their articles of faith.
Capt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan was no different except that he wore a full beard and black turban, the first Sikh in a generation allowed to complete U.S. Army basic officer training without sacrificing the articles of his faith. He completed the nine-week training Monday after Army officials made an exemption to a policy that has effectively prevented Sikhs from enlisting since 1984.
"I'm feeling very humbled. I'm a soldier," said the 31-year-old dentist, smiling after the ceremony at Fort Sam Houston. "This has been my dream."
Rattan had to get a waiver from the Army to serve without sacrificing the unshorn hair mandated by his faith. An immigrant from India who arrived in New York as a teenager, Rattan said he hopes his military commitment will allow him to give back to his adopted home country and will help diminish prejudice Sikhs sometimes face in the U.S.
The Army in 1984 eliminated an exemption that had previously allowed Sikhs to maintain their articles of faith while serving, but officials can issue individual waivers to the uniform policy after considering the effects on safety and discipline, said Army spokesman George Wright. Only a handful of such individual religious exemptions are ever granted.
Before the Army's regulation change in 1984, Sikhs served in the U.S. military during every major armed conflict going back to World War I. Those who joined before the change were allowed to serve with their beards and turbans, but the policy effectively prevented new enlistment of Sikhs, Kaur said.
The coalition continues to push the Army to change the overall policy.
"If government can say to someone, 'You can't serve, not for any reason that has to do with your abilities,' that sends the wrong message," Singh said. "We don't want to be perpetual outsiders."
These men will make another great addition to our military efforts. They both bring much needed medical skills to their units and overall they send a message that any citizen that chooses to can enlist and serve.

1 comment:

E.Pollarine said...

If I could like this post I would-